Miami Heat 1.30 – Brooklyn Nets 3.60, Game 1
After sweeping out Charlotte in Round 1, the Miami Heat have been on extended vacation. It ends on Tuesday when they host the Brooklyn Nets in the first game in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Forget that New York’s other team swept Miami in the regular season. Or that LeBron James is loaning his MVP crown to Kevin Durant. The Heat, still the 2.45 favourites to defend their championship, are giving up a steely 97.4 points per game and scoring 102.2, both vastly superior to the up and down Nets.
Brooklyn – who are 4.50 to advance - showed a lot of qualities in seeing off Toronto in seven but title calibre wasn’t among them. The reigning champs have enough depth to match their foes and greater class to see off a side that has only reached this stage for the sixth time in franchise history.
There is a question mark over Dwyane Wade’s health but the prolonged rest was all he could have asked for. And with James having a point to drive, look at the Heat on the handicap of -8.5 at 2.16 in Game 1 to steal ahead.
Prediction: Miami to win the series 4-1 at 3.10
San Antonio Spurs 1.36 - Portland Trail Blazers 3.20, Game 1
Despite the thrills and spills of the opening round, Portland’s 4-2 series defeat of Houston was ultimately the greatest shock. But now can LaMarcus Aldridge keep up his assault when matched up with Tim Duncan and the crafty Spurs?
The Blazers will take heart from the way Dallas used their speed and range to take San Antonio to seven games while the top overall seeds, now 3.80 for the title, will surely worry over any fatigue factor.
Portland are 4.10 to win the series and if Aldridge and Damian Lillard maintain their form, they could be a steal. And although I like the Spurs to draw first blood and to eventually prevail, the visitors are good value on a handicap of +4.5 at 2.20.
Prediction: San Antonio to win the series 4-2 at 4.60